Florida expects QB Jeff Driskel to play Saturday, but it’s unclear if he’ll start

When the Gators go to Tallahassee this week, they expect to have Jeff Driskel back.

Driskel, the team’s starting quarterback, has been out since spraining his right ankle two weeks ago, but he’s been cleared to return to practice. He will play for No. 6 Florida at No. 10 Florida State on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC), though it is uncertain whether he will start or how close he is to full strength.

“We’re gonna see how the week goes,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “I know right now that he will play in the game. How much he’s gonna play, whether he’s gonna start, I don’t know that right now.”

If he is limited, Florida will rely on backup Jacoby Brissett, who led the team to a fourth-quarter comeback over Louisiana-Lafayette and a 23-0 win against Jacksonville State the past two weeks. Brissett, from Dwyer High School, has not started against a team from a major conference since last October’s loss at Auburn.

UF’s medical staff approved Driskel, a sophomore, to return for Monday’s practice but decided to hold him out to get additional treatment. He is expected to practice Tuesday.

This is a rough time for the Gators (10-1) to have quarterback issues. They are fourth in the BCS standings and can virtually assure themselves of a spot in a BCS bowl with a win. They still have a shot at playing in the national championship game, too, if they beat Florida State (10-1) and get help.

Florida’s offense has been quiet over the past month, no matter who the quarterback has been. The unit has not scored more than 20 points in any of the Gators’ past four games. UF ranks 10th in the SEC in points scored, 12th in total offense and last in passing, but the Gators keep winning on the strength of their defense and special teams.

“If we score seven and they score six, we win the ballgame,” wide receiver Frankie Hammond said. “Of course we want to score points. Shoot, I want to put up 50 on them, but at the end of the day it’s just scoring more points than the opponent.”

Hard to argue with that logic. Florida has picked up close wins over Texas A&M, LSU and Missouri this year, plus it beat South Carolina 44-11 while managing only 183 yards of total offense.

“We need to get better. We need to be more consistent,” Muschamp said. “We can’t continue to self-inflict wounds as far as the penalties and different mistakes that we make.”

Driskel started hot for the Gators but slowed down in October. He has thrown for fewer than 100 yards in four of his past six games. His completion percentage during those six games has been 61.4 percent, compared to 69.6 in the first four.

He offset some of those struggles with his mobility, though defenses have loaded up on the line of scrimmage to contain him and force him to throw. Not counting the 29 times he has been sacked, which cost him 199 yards, Driskel has averaged 9.2 yards per carry and 62.3 per game.

As a passer, he has averaged 132.4 yards per game overall and thrown for 10 touchdowns against three interceptions.

Brissett, also a sophomore, took snaps in three games before coming in against ULL to lead the Gators to the game-tying touchdown with 1:42 remaining. He is 23-of-35 for 249 yards overall.

The Gators had quarterback problems against Florida State last year as well and lost 21-7. John Brantley, a senior, was still recovering from an ankle injury and reinjured it late in the first half, so Brissett took over for the second half.

Brissett completed 4 of 13 passes for 27 yards and threw a TD pass and an interception. His pick was returned 29 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and he described it as one of the most miserable experiences of his football career.